The Victorian mansions, working farms, and tight-knit community of Woodstock share an undeniable magnetism. From the time the Abenaki Indian enclave was first settled by the English in 1768 to its present life as a sophisticated year-round getaway, this corner of Vermont has enticed all types, including George Perkins Marsh (the congressman largely responsible for the creation of the Smithsonian Institution in 1846), environmentalist and benefactor Laurance S. Rockefeller, and proud transplants like Kevin Dann, who leads visitors on walking tours of his adopted town. Woodstock's 3,300 other inhabitants—many of whom came for a weekend and stayed for good—express a similar pride of place. It's no wonder visitors often end up as residents: regulars at the Prince & Pauper restaurant are always pulling up an extra chair for an unexpected dinner guest. Shoppers dropping into the Taftsville Country Store take time to discuss local politics with owner Charlie Wilson. And it's practically criminal to pass a face on Elm Street without at least exchanging a hello. You'd need a whole summer to soak up this good old Northern hospitality (and sample every notable restaurant in town), but spend a weekend in Woodstock and its neighboring villages and you'll understand the allure. You may even find yourself adopting it as your new home.
Where to Stay
When Woodstock was named the Windsor County seat in 1805, lawyers, politicians, and journalists began flocking to the town, and innkeepers quickly became its economic backbone. Proprietors have long since mastered their trade; you'll find attentive service and fastidious owners at nearly every B&B in the area.
Jackson House Inn & Restaurant
114-3 Senior Lane, Woodstock; 800/448-1890 or 802/457-2065; www.jacksonhouse.com; doubles from $195. Built in 1890 by a local sawmill owner, the 15-room Victorian residence now has nine guest rooms and six suites—each with a different theme, ranging from French Empire to Brighton Castle to New England Country—and a restaurant to rival them in elegance. Spend the day sitting in a porch rocker, strolling the five acres of gardens, or relaxing in your spacious tub while the fireplace crackles (even summer nights can use some warming up). Should you crave interaction with other guests, head down to the study at 6 p.m. for complimentary cocktails and hors d'oeuvres.
Twin Farms Barnard; 800/894-6327 or 802/234-9999; www.twinfarms.com; doubles from $900. What was once Sinclair Lewis's summer retreat is now one of the country's most exclusive inns. Twin Farms added a spa two years ago, to occupy your time between croquet on the lawn, canoe trips on the lake, and bike rides as far as your legs will take you—a car and driver follow, of course. Treatments are prearranged, as are meals by chef Neil Wigglesworth (formerly of the Point on Saranac Lake), leaving you with no taxing decisions to make—just time to explore the 300 acres and work off those multi-course dinners.
Quechee Inn at Marshland Farm Quechee Main St., Quechee; 800/235-3133 or 802/295-3133; www.quecheeinn.com; doubles from $140. Not much has changed inside the 1793 farmhouse of Vermont's earliest lieutenant governor, Colonel Joseph Marsh (father of George Perkins Marsh, considered America's first environmentalist). Its 23 guest rooms and two suites are still furnished with Queen Anne antiques and cross-stitched quilts. But the real attraction is the surrounding Marshland Farm. Rent bikes, canoes, and kayaks from Wilderness Trails, whose office is behind the inn, or just get a map from the concierge and set out on foot.
Kedron Valley Inn Rte. 106, South Woodstock; 800/836-1193 or 802/457-1473; www.kedronvalleyinn.com; doubles from $135. This renovated 174-year-old inn (one of Vermont's oldest) and horse farm is the height of no-frills country comfort. Some of the 28 oversized, uncluttered rooms have wood-burning fireplaces, private decks, queen-sized canopy beds, and two-person whirlpool tubs; all have locally acquired antiques. Take a pre-dinner dip in the spring-fed lake out back, then sample the "nouvelle Vermont" menu—ranked one of the state's finest—in the semi-formal dining room.